It’s a tough time for bullies. First, with all the social sensitivities of our era, there has been ostracization and shame. Then came the logistical difficulties of social distancing. You try delivering a swirly or a headlock from six feet away! It’s given us a break in which to reexamine the historical importance of the bully, even look at him with renewed appreciation.
Take, for example, Johnny Lawrence, the blond-haired heavy of the original The Karate Kid. He is middle-aged in Cobra Kai, a sequel that premiered on YouTube and was picked up by Netflix, where it’s been the number one show—at least partly because Cobra Kai reveals Johnny Lawrence as not just a superannuated figure of menace but, in the way of a Lermontov protagonist, a hero of our time.